Coming up: A series of blogs on Italy

19 May

Italy was nothing we expected and everything we didn’t. Rome was overpriced but the food and drink in the pretty Trastevere area were a stifling amount. Venice isn’t half as exotic as it sounds but Burano island near Venice is a grown up’s toy house.  You get pizza as good as Naples woodoven bakes in most good Italian international restaurants but rarely will you find crime and pollution sidling up with palaces and mighty museums to create such an exhilarating blend. Every street in Florence tells you a story. Apart from being hallowed by Hollywood stalwarts like George Clooney and Madonna, Bellagio blossoms pretty in the spring. No amount of reading, romanticised travelogues or photo essay can actually prepare you for the beauty of Tuscany.Image


 Everyone has their own tale of their Italian rampages. For me, Italy was piecing together bits of my history textbooks, living through the Bard’s Julius Caesar, seeing shooting stars in Tuscany and downing limoncellos in the salty air of Amalfi Coast.  

A series of blogs coming up next. I cover Rome, Venice, Amalfi Coast, Lake Como and Tuscany. Some fun tips, what to keep your eyes open for when walking through these streets and two guide of each of the counties mentioned above.

Happy Reading!


Interview with Natasha De Betak

13 Apr

Natasha de Betak’s photography makes you feel guilty.
Guilty of looking at people in their most intimate moments.
When they are asleep.
And stripped of their last cover-The human consciousnesses!

Here’s my piece on the photographer, film maker and costume designer from NYU for the Kindle Magazine.

Photographer, Filmmaker

Interview with Jitesh Patel

10 Apr

This London desi has had an illustrious career so far. Out of his backyard set-up in Shoreditch, London which he calls the Jai Studio- Jitesh Patel has illustrated for high-muck-a-mucks like Warehouse,Ted Baker and big names like Miss Selfridge, Bench, Duck & Cover, NY Times Esprit, French Connection, British Airways, Economist, Guardian, Little Brown Book Company etc;

Very recently, Jitesh launched his book, ‘The Tote Bag’ with Laurence King Publishing. The Tote Bag Book showcases some of the most striking, inventive and subversive examples of the ubiquitous tote. From eco chic to style icon, the featured totes come from a wide range of illustrators and designers from around the world, with designs including floral prints, typography, illustrations and characters

Tote Bag Book

1. Where do you originally come from in India / Your Indian connection?
My parents are originally from Gujrat, India. I’ve been to my hometown a few times and loved it more on each visit.

2. What made you become an artist?
I knew it quite early in life. It was one of my strongest interests and the subject I most enjoyed academically, as well as in my free time.

3. Could you describe for us your typical ‘start to finish’ workflow when working on a design?
I enjoy receiving a new brief. In fact, it is the aspect of a project I ‘must’ enjoy. Most often then not, I formulate my ideas and thoughts straight after receiving a new brief. After reading it a few times to make sure I have not missed any of its facets, I research on it and then, go on to sketch the idea. I’m still a littlee technology averse that way. Sketching comes to me more easily than using a computer. When I am happy that my idea fits the brief, I digitally create my artwork. Depending on the complexity of the illustration, it would take anywhere between 2-5 days to formulate.

Paper quilling

4. What are your tools of the trade ?
I use a variety of tools to create my pieces of work. Experimenting with different methods like quilling and paper craft is my favourite recreation and I often end up taking it to my workstation too. I have a core style but constantly evolve with experiences and that is sometimes reflected in my work too. I like to draw, which could be using pencils and charcoal. I enjoy life drawing classes which keep my drawing skills up to scratch. The software I use is mostly Illustrator and Photoshop. 3D Max, which I’m currently learning seems to be very interesting. I am excited about how it could add a new dimension to my work.

5. How does your job as an artist and designer influence your life? Do you feel that you see things around you differently for example?
I believe my work is very characteristic and a reflection of my own personality. My style of work is very delicate and flowing, which is similar to the way I like to think, as my thoughts can generally move and develop from their original conception. My work has been described as being colourful and, I like to harmonise my own environment, although my work seems to be very open to interpretation, its created with a lot of thought. I like to consider the interaction of every element of my artwork and the composition of the whole piece. I tend to see things around me in a similar nature where I like to see how the things around me interact with each other. I believe everything has a way of connecting with each other, animate as well inanimate.

6. What is your inspiration for the book Tote Bag?
I started a blog to show case how creative people create on a plain canvas tote bag (in most cases it is a plain canvas and it is bought to life by a imaginative and colourful print). I have been collecting Tote bags for some time now, ever since I went travelling to Southeast Asia. The blog became viral quite quickly and soon became an inspiration for my book.

7. How did publisher initially react to the idea of the Tote Bag book suggested by you?
The publisher Laurence King Publishing invited me to have a meeting with them to discuss the idea of the Tote bag book in detail. They were intrigued. And felt the idea had potential. I briefed them on the target audience and how I would research and write the book as well as initial design concepts of how the book could look.

8. Which illustrators do you follow, both Indian and International?
Archan Nair, Sir Peter Blake, Jeff Nishinaka, Rob Ryan, Kai & Sunny and Nathan Fox all have a great style and impressive body of work.

9. Where do you think Indian illustrators and Indian illustration stand today?
Its growing at a healthy pace. I have seen some really high standard work with wonderful thought process. I can only imagine it going strength to strength.

10. Colours, shape and images that come to your illustrator mind with the 20th Century India?
The visual cues I can feel and imagine when I think of new India are the colour saffron, colossal construction work, concrete structures of various shapes and sizes, lush green landscapes and the hustle and bustle of people .

11. You favourite city in India which appeals to your design senses and you can draw inspiration from?

Mumbai, certainly. I love the pulse of the city. There is a lot going on. Being brought up in London, everything seems new. Shopping for queer tid-bits like stones, patterned fabric pieces and batik wooden blocks is my favourite pastime in Mumbai. Maybe, even Goa. They lie on the same coast and yet are so different from each other. You somehow take things as they come in Goa. I would love to be based there as a artist!

Illustrations by Jitesh Patel

Jitesh Patel illustrations

Dolly’s Tea House

27 Feb

Other than a year-long sojourn in London in my early 20s, I have lived my entire life in the South India. I am a coffee drinker through and through. But a couple of years ago, my sister and I lounged at a tea house in Ireland every afternoon of our week long trip and this die-hard coffee lover fell in love with teas. I don’t have that much of a sweet tooth when it comes to beverages. Nor a big fan of sodas and definitely don’t like sugary bottled drinks. But there is definitely something about the bracing kick of sweet tea (especially iced teas), the balance between astringent and syrup that just makes me happy.

Scouring thorough the Kantha work stoles in Dakshinapan in the dry receding monsoon air last week, I threw a thirsty glance around to see if I could find some fresh lime soda. And my gaze fell upon a cute green and white awning with large bold writing- ‘Dolly’s Tea House’. And all of a sudden, the smell of freshly brewed tea mingled with just- out- of- the- oven bake wafted towards me. A whole tsunami of saliva filled my mouth and my legs, and my legs unheedingly followed my gaze. Teak-panels, hanging paper lanterns,tea-crate tables, hand-sewn cushions atop the rattan chairs; my heart instantly warmed to this little oasis in middle of nowhere. An eclectic bunch of people warmed the stools while two women in starchy white sarees served beverages and tea cakes to them as the regal matriarchal eyes of the owner, Dolly Roy, monitored it all.

Dollys Tea House

I might still be hunkering over the menu of 32-odd ice tea flavours, had Ms Dolly not come to the rescue, generously suggesting a taste of a few before I actually made my choice. Hand across the heart, it puts the ‘crispy and cool ’commercial iced brews to shame. The renowned speciality, the Strawberry Ice tea nearly touched the hem of heaven and honourable mentions should go to the buoyant Pineapple flavour and the delicate Passion Fruit. The Blueberry seemed to have capitulated a little too much to the sweet toothed Bengalis, but what the heck, where else in this country will you find a Blueberry flavoured iced tea. Of course, toasted sandwiches and apple pies zealously accompany the hot and cold teas.

Dolly Roy first set shop in 1987, when tea houses were still a novelty. The verdant tea gardens circling her home in Darjeeling became her stimulus and she soon became India’s first woman tea taster and the first woman tea auctioneer in the world. Travelling in a tea pot shaped vans in Belgium, ambulating through acres of tea estates in Assam, working as India’s tea ambassador in New York helped her build her idea of a tea house to share her passion with others. Dolly now sells her favourite tea from all over the country in her very own tea house; the leaves come in pretty tin boxes recycled out of London maps, soft wood mini chests and festive plastic bags. If you’re interested, she or one of her assistants can teach you — how to brew it, how to serve it, and how to recognize the degree of its rarity. Dolly says she honestly thinks Indian tea has no parallel in quality and flavour but if she had to choose from teas abroad, it would be the white tea from China. Her favourite Indian brew is the second-flush Darjeeling tea (full-bodied, aromatic and muscatel in taste)

The tea house has quickly morphed from adorable notion into a formidable influence, a small shop with a large footprint and amongst India’s best tea houses. So one of these approaching summer evening, when you don’t feel like taking out your mother’s vintage tea pots and the mulled wine is already down to its last sip, carry a book , plonk yourself on Dolly’s oh-so-comfortable stools, sip on her tea and watch the world go by…